Playing hospitals is a perennially popular activity around here – indeed I’ve blogged about it before, and with a rather mega hospital-related birthday present on the way to M from her Grandparents, I’ve been on the look out for some fantastic hospital themed story books. Well, last week I found one – but I fell so much in love with it that I couldn’t bring myself to keep it a secret till M’s birthday – I’m afraid it just had to be shared and read *right now*!
Next, Please by Ernst Jandl, illustrated by Norman Junge is the simplest of stories, about a handful of dilapidated, much loved toys whom we meet waiting in a gloomy, unadorned room. It is not clear what is going on… The text is sparse, each page with just one or two very short lines, but the pared-down storytelling turns out to work wonderfully well with the charming, intriguing illustrations which provide clues as to what the toys are waiting for.
M, J and I were held captive from page 1 of the story. The opening line (“Five are waiting“), accompanied by an illustration of five different toys with various bandages, broken parts or bits missing gives little away. M, of course, immediately asked “Waiting for what?”. The next page only made us more curious; we see the door to the room where the toys are waiting open wide, casting a shaft of bright light in front of the toys. Out through that door trundles a little ladybird, though it is not clear where she has been or what has happened to her.
With a puzzled look on M’s face she quickly turned the next page. “‘Next, please.’ One goes in” is all that accompanies the illustration of a wind-up penguin who has lost his flippers as he wobbles his way out of the darkened waiting room. Then we got our first indication of what might be going on behind the mysterious door: suddenly it bursts open with another shaft of bright light and gust of wind and the penguin reappears, now boasting a wonderful new set of flippers.
Spurred on by suspense and hopeful anticipation we rushed through the rest of the book, watching as each toy waits for his turn to visit what lies beyond the dark door – and we were rewarded on the final page with a revelation that made us all happy and relieved. This is certainly not a story like some where dark secrets are held behind locked doors, although right to the end there is always something a little unnerving about what might be going on out of sight.
Apart from the lovely story and brilliant illustrations that fed perfectly into M’s love of toy hospitals, I was happy to find this book because it is a translation from German (originally titled fünfter sein). Although I’m grateful for the rich heritage we have of children’s books written in English, I’m always on the look out for books translated from other languages. Sometimes they can provide windows into different cultural understandings, and often a fresh take on illustration or storytelling.
The sight of the 5 poorly toys all in need of some TLC has, of course, ensured that we have spent most of this week playing toy hospital. We introduced some new aspects to our play this time around, including the creation of some shiny hospital equipment.
1. I cut a rectangular hole in the side of the shoe box and then M covered everything in silver foil.
2. I used the knitting needle to make holes in the centre of all the plastic lids. M and J then inserted the paper fasteners. Again using the knitting needle M made holes in the top of the shoe box (through the silver foil). M and J inserted the lids and paper fasteners into the holes and then opened out the fasteners on the inside of the box. This meant that the lids were attached to the box and could be rotated – the idea was that these were to be various dials on the machine.
3. Next the girls used the number stickers to put around the dials, and used the black pen to add arrows “so that accurate readings can be taken”…
4. Then I took the long knitting needle and pushed it through the side of the box. Next, I inserted the till roll onto the needle (inside the box) and pushed the needle through the other side of the box. I took the start of the till roll and fed it through the hole in the shoe box we’d made right at the start. The idea behind all this was to create something that could give us a read-out.
5. Using sellotape (scotch tape) we attached the 2 lengths of cable to the machine, and then the other ends of the cable to poor Barney who needed to undergo some serious medical investigation.
This machine was great fun to make and has seen lots of use since. It could easily be adapted to be a space rocket console as well, which is always useful!
In addition to our super high-tech hospital equipment M set up separate hospital departments (large printouts, coloured in, stuck on cardboard and hung up) for the Operating Theatre (fully equipped with knives from our plastic food and cafe set, although I wouldn’t want to be operated on with that pizza cutter!)…
….for Ward 1, my favourite item being the drip bags made out of airlocks meant for homebrewing, bought cheaply at Wilkinsons (there are 2 visible in this photo -one attached to the edge of the bookcase)…
…. and the X-Ray Department (key items: anglepoise lamp that can be switched on and off, and black paper with white crayons so that the girls could draw the x-rays).
Lots of fun all round!
Whilst playing hospitals we’ve been listening to the classic St James Hospital sung by Pete Seeger, the tongue-in-cheek Hospital Song by Mache Seibel and Hospital Blues by Cherry Casino and the Gamblers, just because it’s good for a boogie.
Next time (and there will be a next time) we play hospitals I’ll try to get round to making a stethoscope, like this one from ehow, and we’ll create a surgeon’s outfit, using a shower cap, a surgical mask and some rubber gloves.